MS 189 The Black/Jewish Forum of Baltimore (BLEWS) Archive

Posted on March 31, 2011 by

Over the past few years the Jewish Museum of Maryland has been lucky enough to receive several donations from local institutions.  While many of these organizations are still very active (like the Black/Jewish Forum of Baltimore) they either don't have the space to continue to keep their old files, or they realize that they don't need to have daily access to records from twenty, thirty, or even fifty years ago.  When the files come into the JMM they become part of the historic collections — preserved for future generations.  The following collection came in a little over a year ago.  With the help of Jobi Zink (collections manager extraordinaire) and one of our fall interns, I drove over to Coppin State University with a stack of boxes to bring some of their older files here to the JMM.

Filing cabinets at the BLEWS office Files before they entered the JMM archives

BLEWS files in the JMM archive

One of the most exciting things for me about this collection is the fact that the JMM and BLEWS worked together before the archives even came to us.

A group of students participating in the BLEWS archival exploration at the JMM. November 2006

The Black/Jewish Forum of Baltimore (BLEWS) Archive

1981-2002 (Bulk 1981-1992)

 MS 189

Jewish Museum of Maryland



The Black/Jewish Forum of Baltimore (BLEWS) Collection was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 2010 as accession 2010.16 by Bernie Berkowitz. The collection was processed by Jennifer Vess with Bernie Raynor and Allan Blumberg in 2010.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.  Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.


The Black/Jewish Forum of Baltimore (generally referred to as BLEWS) was founded in 1978.  The organization was created to promote understanding and cooperation between Baltimore’s Black and Jewish Community.  BLEWS encourages both communities to work together to address issues of racism and religious discrimination and to promote social and economic justice.  BLEWS has been involved in issues at a local and a global level.  BLEWS has sponsored lectures, events, trips abroad, educational programs and collaborative projects.  Their purpose as stated in their own words is: “Through educational programs, peer dialogue and collaborative projects, we seek to build mutual trust, to advance shared interests, to appreciate each other's uniqueness and perspectives, to enjoy our cultural diversity along with our common humanity, and to develop leadership that can effectively prevent crisis or deal with crises when necessary.”

Between 1978 and 1988 the Baltimore Jewish Council provided the staff and space for BLEWS.  The BLEWS presidents during that time were: Allen Schwait, Kenneth Montague, Stuart Rome, John Ferron, Rabbi Donald Berlin, Dr. Calvin Burnett, and Rabbi Murray Saltzman. The organization was incorporated in 1988 and in 1989 the first director was hired and the office moved to Coppin State College (now Coppin State University.)  BLEWS continues to function today.

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“Correspondence – History-Budget-Planning-Campus Outreach, 1989-1990”


The Black/Jewish Forum of Baltimore (BLEWS) Archive consists of the administrative files of the organization for approximately its first twenty years.  The administrative files consist of awards, correspondence, speeches, financial materials, announcements, lists and rosters, invitations, meeting minutes, etc.  The original filing system was erratic (mostly by chronology but not consistently so and partially by topic) and seems to have reflected the varied organization styles of multiple individuals.  The files have been reorganized into thirteen series:  Series I. Awards, 1985-1991; Series II. Committees, 1981-1994; Series III. Correspondence, 1986-1998; Series IV. Financial, 1987-1998; Series V. Meetings, 1985-2002; Series VI. Membership 1985-1991; Series VII. Publicity, 1990s; Series VIII. Operation Understanding, 1989-1993; Series IX. Other Organizations, 1989-1993; Series X. Outreach, 1989-1993; Series XI. Special Events, 1990-1992; Series XII. General; Series XIII. Photographs.  The multiple organization styles also affected the materials within folders.  Some information can be found in multiple series, for example information on committees sometimes appears in folders labeled membership.

Series I. Awards, 1985-1991 contains files related to the Stuart Rome Memorial Award presented by BLEWS to individuals in the community and the Shroder Award presented to BLEWS by the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Series II. Committees, 1981-1994 includes the files of various BLEWS committees: Executive, Issues, Membership, Nominating, Program and Search.  The Files are organized alphabetically by committee.

Series III. Correspondence, 1986-1998 contains files of general correspondence and memos, and the correspondence of Sol Goldstein (former director of BLEWS) arranged chronologically.

Series IV. Financial, 1987-1998 includes bills, accounts, summaries, statements, fundraising documents, foundation and grant files, and information on major donors.  The files are organized alphabetically.

Series V. Meetings, 1985-2002 contains materials related to the annual and general meetings of BLEWS including meeting announcements and agendas, reports, speakers notes, programs, attendee lists, invitations, etc.  The files are separated into annual and general meetings and further organized chronologically.

Series VI. Membership 1985-1991 includes member lists, press releases, meeting announcements, membership applications, and some correspondence.

Series VII. Publicity, 1990s contains press releases, press accounts, press statements, letters to the editor, etc.

Series VIII. Operation Understanding, 1989-1993 is an organization that started in Philadelphia in 1985 and expanded to other cities with the purpose of creating African American and Jewish leaders knowledgeable about each other’s history and culture.  The BLEWS files pertaining to Operation Understanding include mostly financial records as well as materials related to the Dinner and Dialogue program that was part of the project in Baltimore.

Series IX. Other Organizations, 1989-1993 contains files compiled by BLEWS staff related to other organizations, probably ones with which they worked.  The files are organized alphabetically by the name of the organization.

Series X. Outreach, 1989-1993 contains files related to the BLEWS campus outreach programs.  The files are arranged chronologically.

Series XI. Special Events, 1990-1992 includes clippings, correspondence, announcements, invitations etc., related to special events put on by BLEWS in particular their gala cruise on the Baltimore Harbor.  The files are organized chronologically.

Series XII. General are miscellaneous files in alphabetical order – files include topics related to speeches, activities, universities, etc.


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